ABCs of Gratitude for Aunties
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This past spring I learned how to express thanks in traffic. Yes—in traffic, moving at a snail’s pace, my mother and nephew showed how easy it is to be grateful wherever you are.
We were in the car and headed to brunch. Having just completed a half marathon, I had already experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude that morning. In the previous 18 months, I had lost more than 60 pounds and the achievement represented a healthier life. I was grateful that my body had the strength to cross the finish line after 13 miles and that my mind had kept me moving forward when my feet were in pain.
My family wanted to take me to a restaurant to celebrate and re-fuel, so we got behind a long line of cars leaving the race. I was happy just to be sitting, but my nephew, CJ, was hungry and began to complain. Knowing that the car ride would seem longer if we had to listen to whining, my mother came up with an idea.
“Let’s do the ‘ABC’s of gratitude,’” she said to CJ.
And so it began: A. Auntie. B. Basketball. C. Cats, especially the cats in funny YouTube videos.
That last one made him giggle, and suddenly, my nephew was focused on what he had instead of what he wanted. His demeanor immediately changed.
D. Dogs. E. What begins with E? We all worked to think of some E words, and I think CJ finally settled on “elephants.” Now, he was smiling. We continued to throw letters at him, and he named things in his life for which he could say thanks.
While the activity was meant to keep CJ distracted, it provided much greater benefit. We all laughed over some of the items on his list, enjoyed the challenge that letters like “X” provided, and thought about the many ways we are blessed.
During November, we are in the season of thanks. Descended from both Plymouth pilgrims and Native Americans, I like to joke that the reason I love Thanksgiving Day is because it gives my mixed heritage peace. Truly, my reason for appreciating the holiday goes deeper than that. I enjoy the connection created when we take time to express with family and friends the ways in which we feel blessed.
Of course, there’s no reason to wait all year to experience these benefits. By working through the “ABC’s of Gratitude” with your nieces or nephews, you’ll help them to think positively and feel happy wherever they are. This activity is for aunties, too, and below I have captured the ABC’s of Gratitude for aunties.
ABCs of Gratitude for Aunties
My favorite role in life is the one that I was given when my sister decided to have children. It’s the greatest gift I have ever received.
B. Belly laughs
Kids seem to know how to laugh with their whole body, starting in the belly and emanating outward. Whether we are being silly, telling jokes, or watching a funny movie, enjoying belly laughs alongside my nieces and nephews increases my happiness.
Being a typical PANK, I love the children in my life but also value my career and professional pursuits.
My iPod contains playlists that have names like “Dance Dance Crazy” from past dance parties with my nieces and nephew. Coordination is not required but jumping around with wild abandon is.
I admit that I can be zapped after spending a day with my little bundles of activity, but time with kids gives me energy, too.
Over the last year, I have had more opportunity to spend time with friends than in any other year in the last two decades. I am so grateful for the connections I have with these wonderful individuals and being single and without kids, gives me more time for these relationships.
Without my nieces and nephew I may not have learned the skills needed for the game Plants vs. Zombies or relived the fun of Super Mario and Don’t Break the Ice. My inner child is released when we can compete in a fun way and lose ourselves in play.
H. Heart health
While watching my diet can take care of my physical heart’s health, being an auntie supports my heart’s emotional health.
I. Ice cream
In an effort to improve my diet, I don’t indulge in ice cream like I once did. But on occasion, I like to have ice cream with my nephew. He gets it all over his face smiling as he eats, reminding me to enjoy each sweet creamy spoonful.
The simple pleasure of a knock-knock joke is not lost on me. Kid humor suggests that we take life a little less seriously and laugh more.
K. Kisses and Hugs
My 8-month-old niece, Katie Belle, has the biggest cheeks I have ever seen, and they beg for my kisses. In turn, she puts her tiny arms around my neck and lays her head on my shoulder. Moments of tenderness like that give life meaning.
The feelings of love were immediate. From the moment I first met my sister’s babies—Brittni, CJ, and Katie Belle—I loved them more than I could have imagined.
Hip hop, boy bands, top 40 and Disney channel stars… Having nieces and nephews keeps me current with a wide range of music from The Wiggles to Kei$ha.
N. Nieces and Nephews!
O. Overnight stays
In my world, overnight stays are synonymous with spoiling. King or queen for the day, my oldest niece and my nephew get to drive the agenda when they stay at my house. The fun doesn’t stop until their parents say that it’s time to go home.
My sister and brother-in-law do not take their responsibility lightly, and they show up every day to take care of the kids who are dear to me. The work they do to raise great children allows me all the fun of being an auntie.
Q. Quality of Life
Being an auntie adds to my quality of life each day.
Reading to children and sharing my love of books is yet another pleasure. Trips to bookstores or the library and afternoons spent reading together give me a chance to discover new stories while helping others build knowledge.
PANKs have a lot to offer the world as both nurturers and professionals. I am so excited that there is now a forum for aunties and a place to celebrate our unique roles in the family.
T. Talking and Listening
Dialog with youth sometimes gives me just the new perspective I need. And in turn, I am glad I can share my life and lessons learned.
Uncles provide another dimension to children’s lives and certainly impacted mine positively when I was a child. So, cheers to uncles for their special role, also.
I’ve taken five weeks to travel across country and spent several weeks at a time exploring countries abroad. Not having children has allowed me to travel in ways that I may not have been able if I was a parent.
As they wonder and ask “Why?” children teach us to appreciate the intricacies of our world and respect how amazing it is that a seed can grow into a tree or airplanes can move people from one place to another.
X. X-citement and X-pression
(Sorry, I have to cheat a little on “X.”) After years of training to use our inside voices, we eventually learn and generally become less expressive. When my nieces and nephew have outbursts of joy or surprise, their emotion reawakens mine.
There is plenty in my life to age me, but all of the things mentioned in the above fight to keep me young.
I don’t always get enough sleep, but most weekends, I have a chance to catch up on my Zs without interruption.
Photo: Stuart Miles
Published: November 13, 2012